Happy New Year: 11 Things I Learned And/Or Relearned About Life, Love & Writing in 2011

Usually on Saturdays, I post an “Expat Sat” post…you know, “Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writerhead. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.”

BUT…since today is New Year’s Eve (whoop! whoop!), I’m stepping away from tradition to share a few things I learned (or in many cases, relearned) in 2011. Ready?

  1. The seeking and finding of oneself happens again and again in life. Stay open.
  2. I AM here to live out loud.
  3. Writing is not a solitary endeavor. (Relearn, relearn, relearn…)
  4. Paul Simon & I are alike when it comes to rhythm and symmetry and the breaking of symmetry.
  5. Despite the fact that as I get older, my eyesight gets worse and worse, I see things much more clearly.
  6. Just when I believe I see things clearly, they shift out of focus.
  7. Missing Shanghai is an ongoing feeling, as is my longing for each place in my life with which I’ve connected deeply.
  8. Journal, journal, journal. (& when in doubt, journal!)
  9. I love teaching writing to freshmen. I love how damn fresh they are.
  10. Steve Jobs
  11. Writerhead rocks! And it’s beautifully different for each writer. It can be like:


How about you? What did you learn (or relearn) this year?

Happy New Year, all! See you in 2012!


Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Diana Abu-Jaber

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author answers three questions about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.

Ssshhh…today we’re giddily mucking about in the creative noggin of Diana Abu-Jaber, the brilliantly talented author of the novel Birds of Paradise (about which Ron Charles–book reviewer for the Washington Post–recently said, “This is a full-course meal, a rich, complex and memorable story that will leave you lingering gratefully at her table.”)

I’m grateful Diana opened the door to her writerhead because as you’ll see, it’s a rich, laugh-out-loud kind of place.

Enjoy! (And yep, my voracious readers, I’ve got one copy of Birds of Paradise to give away today so leave a comment to enter. Guidelines below.)

The Scoop About Birds of Paradise

“In the tropical paradise that is Miami, Avis and Brian Muir are still haunted by the disappearance of their ineffably beautiful daughter, Felice, who ran away when she was thirteen. Now, after five years of modeling tattoos, skateboarding, clubbing, and sleeping in a squat house or on the beach, Felice is about to turn eighteen. Her family—Avis, an exquisitely talented pastry chef; Brian, a corporate real estate attorney; and her brother, Stanley, the proprietor of Freshly Grown, a trendy food market—will each be forced to confront their anguish, loss, and sense of betrayal. Meanwhile, Felice must reckon with the guilty secret that drove her away, and must face her fear of losing her family and her sense of self forever.

“This multilayered novel about a family that comes apart at the seams—and finds its way together again—is totally involving and deeply satisfying, a glorious feast of a book.” [from amazon.com]

The Buzzzzzzzzzzzz

“Diana Abu-Jaber’s delicious new novel weighs less than two pounds, but you may gain more than that by reading it. If you know her cream-filled work—especially Crescent and The Language of Baklava—you’re already salivating. This Jordanian American author writes about food so enticingly that her books should be published on sheets of phyllo dough. Birds of Paradise contains her most mouthwatering writing ever, but it’s no light after-dinner treat. This is a full-course meal, a rich, complex and memorable story that will leave you lingering gratefully at her table.” ~ Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Abu-Jaber writes with wit and insight about her range of characters, and her sharp observation of setting makes Miami another character in the novel, from the sleek downtown high rises to the glimmering thump of the SoBe clubs, from the lush quiet of the Gables to the multilingual street life of less opulent neighborhoods. And, this being South Florida, there’s a hurricane….Her prose is often lyrical, rising into striking images like the spun sugar on Avis’ creations. But Birds of Paradise has satisfying substance, too, for anyone hungry to read about the many ways that modern families lose and love.” ~ Colette Bancroft, St. Petersburg Times

First Sentence

“A cookie, Avis told her children, is a soul.”


And now, Diana’s writerhead

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

It used to be a much more disconnected state than my usual operating mode. I had specific writing hours and times when I was at-work, and the rest of the time I was at-life, and the two states didn’t necessarily mingle all that much. As I’ve gotten, ahem, older, I’ve found that they seem to migrate into each other and I’ve become more adept at sort of flipping the switch, picking up on a writing project where I’ve left off, when and where I need to. That might be at my desk during “work hours” or it might be in the middle of cooking or at a traffic light or waiting at the dentist’s office. If I could just work out how to write WHILE getting cavities filled, I think I’d really have it all figured out.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

This is another before and after answer for me, as in: BEFORE I had a child, I might have been just a smidge diva-ish if my husband had stumbled into the office with an ad for a new boat; I might possibly have channeled my inner J-Lo and said something like, “Um, yeah? At work here? You know, work?” Nowadays, after 8 months of baby colic and a year of wee hour wakings and 2 years of animal cracker power struggles, I’m more like, “Honey, look! I made a word! A word!”

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

Okay, I think for me being in the writerhead is like going outside to see if it’s started to rain yet, and it hasn’t quite started, and you can just barely sense those first scant drops, so light you almost wonder if you’re imagining it, but you know if you just wait for it a bit longer, it’s absolutely going to come down, any second now.


Diana Abu-Jaber’s newest novel, Birds Of Paradise, is an Indiepicks selection.

Her novel, Origin was named one of the best books of the year by the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post. Her second novel, Crescent, won the PEN Center Award for Literary fiction and the American Book Award. Her first novel, Arabian Jazz won the Oregon Book Award.

The Language of Baklava, her memoir, won the Northwest Booksellers’ Award.

She teaches at Portland State University and divides her time between Portland and Miami.

Want to connect with Diana? Check out her web site (www.dianaabujaber.com). You can also greet her on Twitter (@dabujaber) or say hidy-ho on Facebook.


Q4U: Readers / Writers / Looky-Loos / Foodies / Miami-ites: When is the last time you channeled your inner J-Lo when interrupted while in writerhead? Come on…come clean.



Today—Wednesday, September 14, 2011—I’m giving away 1 copy of Diana Abu-Jaber’s Birds of Paradise.

RULES: To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment for Diana right here on WRITERHEAD. Tell her how much you loved her previous books and how much you’re looking forward to reading this one. Give her a virtual high-five. Share your own “inner J-Lo” moment. Ask a question about how she wrote Birds of Paradise or if she’s going to be giving a reading in your town. Tell her how smitten you are with her description of writerhead. (I am!) Etc.

*Comments must be posted before the clock strikes midnight on September 15, 2011. (That’s Eastern Standard Time U.S.)

**This contest is open internationally.

***Winners will be drawn on Thursday, September 15. Be sure to check back to see who wins.

****Though I welcome all charming comments, only one comment per person will be counted in the contest. (I know, I know…but this isn’t American Idol.)

*****The winner will be drawn randomly by the highly scientific method of my 3yo pulling a name out of a hat (or some other convenient container…blocks box, [unused] cereal bowl, sand bucket, etc.)